The night air was cool and damp on my hair and face. My mother and I were sitting on a hill just outside of the city.
“It’s really beautiful out here tonight,” I said as my mom inhaled a large breath. There was an uncountable number of colors in the sky- in the form of stars- though the most common color was white, brighter than snow.
“It is,” two words, the most she ever talked anymore, after being a witness to my father’s death. Though I had noticed her talking a bit more often recently.
“Yes Ana?” she responded to me.
“What happened to dad to make you not talk much anymore? You used to talk all the time.” I barely remembered those times, but what memories I do have are good ones.
Just like every time I asked a question that required more than two words to answer, she ignored me and stared off in a comdifferent direction. I was always irritated by this response. I stood up and, not saying to her where I was going, started the long walk back to our house in the middle of the city.
I had only gotten over the edge of the hill we were on when I heard footsteps behind me, then a loud grunt. I turned around and backtracked some to inspect the commotion and saw a group of about ten Donovans, the largest had the appearance of a Cadmar, the bravest (a.k.a.,the cruelest) defenders of the city. The Cadmar’s presence left me breathless, they were only called out for the worst of crimes or matters of the most importance.
The two smallest had a hold on my mother’s arms. She was kicking and biting at them.
The largest of the group, the Cadmar, yelled a harsh command that I didn’t hear because it was muffled but I could guess what he said because two others grabbed her legs and immobilized them though she was still biting at the ones holding her arms.
The Cadmar walked a little closer to my mother and grabbed her chin, stopping her biting at his companions. He put his face close to her ear and said something in a whisper that caused her to stop trying to pull away from him, wide-eyed.
I gasped and two of the remaining five warriors turned and faced me. I noticed an evil-like gleam to their eyes and, before I had a chance to think about it, I was running in the direction of the building I called home.
Running as fast as I could, I reached the house in 20 minutes
where usually it would have taken me half an hour or more. I ran inside the house and closed the door behind me. I shoved what I could move in front of the door, which, honestly, wasn’t much. Once I was satisfied the door was barricaded, I did the same thing to the kitchen door. Then I ran around and shuttered all the windows. After I got the last window covered, I grabbed one of Mum’s sharpest cooking knives and went to hide in the corner adjacent to our fireplace.
The seconds faded into minutes and hours as I waited for someone to arrive, pounding on the door, demanding I let them in.
At about 6 p.m., as the sun was just setting over the horizon, I walked over to the nearest window and opened the shutters just about an inch. I saw the group of warriors walking up the alleyway, dragging mum behind them. The men broke into two groups of five and the two that were carrying my mother just let her fall, unconscious, to the ground before they followed behind the Cadmar’s group. He walked up to the door and pushed aside all of my barricades as if they were a pile of feathers, making a loud bang.
At the same time this happened, I heard a similar crashing from the direction of the kitchen. I ran back to my corner, ready to defend myself by any means necessary. Then, a line of five men emerged from each door leading into the living room, they were headed straight for each other. I cowered further into the corner thinking that doing so would give them less of a chance to grab me. All 10 men of the group stopped in a curved line just as they were about to run into each other, standing shoulder to shoulder, from wall to wall. They weren’t giving me the option of running.
“Tch. This is who we are supposed to bring back to the queen, ‘no matter what’?”
“Yes, she is.”
“Her majesty could have at least sent us after someone important.”
“She’s as important as the queen is if we do this right,” it was irritating me that they were talking about me like I wasn’t there, so I took a few steps forward. The Cadmar must have seen me out of the corner of his eye (he had turned to face the Donovan he was talking to) because he nodded his head toward the end of the line.
On the Cadmar’s signal, one of the men on the edge of their human wall raised a hollowed bamboo stick and pointed it at me. He took a deep breath and blew into it. I saw a blur of red and then right in front of my face, sticking out of the wall, there was the red feather shaft of a tranquilizer dart.
The Cadmar turned, took a step towards me, and in a bone-chilling way said, “That was just a warning, come with us peacefully and there will be no reason for us to shoot you and we will have no reason to kill your mother.”
I sat for a moment, contemplating my options. I could fight and possibly be shot and have them kill mum or go with them of my own accord, know where I am, and have Mum survive.
I thought about my options for a moment before I realized, the correct option was sitting right in my hand, in the form of a sharp knife. I stood, trying to control the shaking in my legs, and walked over to the men. The one I stopped in front of held out his hand for my knife. I had it held behind my back so I brought it in front of me and made a motion like I was going to give it to him. At the moment it was about to touch his hand I twisted the blade, sharp-edge down, and cut his hand. A ripple of shock ran through the line. The one I had cut was holding his hand and he had moved, making a gap just wide enough for me to slip through. So I did.
I ran out of the front door and squatted in front of Mum. She hadn’t moved at all since they dropped her there and I didn’t see the consistent movement of her breath. That’s when I realized the cut over the vein in her neck that was seeping small amounts of blood onto the gravel, I also noticed bruises scattering her once beautifully pale skin, but those didn’t matter to me as much as the realization I made suddenly. They had already killed her and were trying to use her as leverage getting me to go with them. The rage I felt inside at that realization was so immense I knew I had never felt anything like that before.
I felt something inside of me unlock and felt a rumbling in the ground around me. I looked at the ground around me and was surprised to see a faint glow coming from my skin.
The glow surprised me so much that I fell on the ground. The fall knocked the breath out of me. When this happened, the rumbling stopped.
At that moment, I heard footsteps coming out of my house. I jumped up off the ground and ran out of the alleyway between my house and the house next door.
I ran until I couldn’t anymore. At that point, I turned down the alleyway that I knew led to the labyrinth, the tunnels that ran under the whole of the city. I figured that the warriors wouldn’t follow me in, not even the Cadmar, simply because the labyrinth was so terrifying that stupidity and desperation, not bravery, was what a person needed to enter.
As soon as I took my first step into the labyrinth a certain, inexplicable, type of terror left me paralyzed just a few feet from the entrance. I remembered the rumors that it felt so scary because, first of all, no one who ever entered it ever exited and, secondly, it was said around town that something in the labyrinth wiggled its way into one’s mind and discovered everything about them, then created the greatest fears in their mind to drive that person crazy. After it successfully drove the person crazy, it showed the thing they loved the most and led them to something in the center of the maze to meet some mysterious fate.
Remembering the tale brought me out of my shock and back to my senses. That’s when I heard the men that had followed me talking outside and the voice of the cadmar shouting orders at them.
“I’m going in after her,” the Cadmar yelled at his comrades. Only a few protests came from the others before I heard large footsteps running after me. As soon as the Cadmar came into view, I ran. I got a few feet farther away from him before I turned back to him and saw that he was completely frozen in place, his eyes wide with fear. I walked back towards him, slowly so as to not startle him out of his trance, and as soon as I was certain he wasn’t going to charge me, I ran out of the maze.
When I stepped out of the maze, I was bombarded with cold air and dark skies.